Diocese prepares for influx of Cuban refugees, frustrated with lack of communication

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The Diocese of El Paso is figuring out how to respond to the influx of Cuban refugees that are expected to arrive in El Paso.

Bishop Seitz says he doesn’t have a problem helping the 3000 plus refugees that are on their way to El Paso, but he’s frustrated at the lack of communication that’s come from the Federal government about the Cuban immigrant situation. Seitz says that they are now developing ways on how they can help the thousands of refugees that are coming on such a short timeline.

“We really don’t know how many planes are coming each day, we don’t know what the make-up of those who are coming. it’s very difficult to prepare if we don’t know who’s coming,” Seitz says. “Whom the government said we would accept if they are able to arrive at our border, and he will have certain benefits for them, but if the structure isn’t there to provide those benefits and to care for them in the meantime, then we’re following through on our commitment there.”

The Diocesan Migrant and Refugee Services (DMRS), a ministry of the Diocese of El Paso, is the only agency in the Sun City that can process applications and administer resources, like money.

“Because this is a federally funded program administered through the state of Texas, you can imagine that this program has a lot of nuances and requirements to it and so there is a lot of steps we have to take before we can issue any sorts of benefits, says DMRS’ executive director Melissa Lopez.

Lopez says because of DMRS’ lack of funding they have limited staffing. That means it’s going to take longer for them to get through applications and resources. But there are some missions available to help now, like the Ysleta Lutheran Mission.

“They come in late they need to be put some place, so we’re looking for cots, and we’re using actually the church and the pews for people to stay,” Pastor Karl Heimer says.

Other organizations assisting at the moment are the Annunciation House and Houchen Community Center.

The diocese says they will be asking parishes for help, as well as local shelters. Right now the DMRS says people can help by sponsoring a family’s travel or making food donations to shelters. For more information on how you can help, you can contact DMRS at (915) 532-3975 or info@dmrs-ep.org.

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